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'SANDF deployment a rallying point for communities to start own operations'

It's been more than two weeks since the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was deployed to ten gang-riddled areas around Cape Town.

There have been mixed reports about the effectiveness of this attempt to help police stabilise these crime hot-spots and last weekend, at least 40 people were killed on the Cape Flats.

RELATED: Police corruption: Back to business as usual when army rolls out of Cape Flats?

Dr Simon Howell, research director at the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (Apcof) says while, at least for a time, there has been a decrease in serious or violent crime, it's difficult to judge whether this is because of the army presence or the mass deployment of police.

The military hasn't come alone in the sense that there have also been quite a large number of operations going on.

Dr Simon Howell, Research director - African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum

We'll only really be able to figure it out retrospectively, in three months' time.

Dr Simon Howell, Research director - African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum

RELATED: Bonteheuwel: Zero gang-related murders for an entire month

In the case of Bonteheuwel, residents themselves have reported that there has not been a single gang-related murder since the deployment.

Dr Howell believes, in turn, that the most effective contribution by the army has been to become a rallying point for people to begin their own community policing operations.

Bonteheuwel is a very special case in the sense that a lot of that massive decrease in crime is a result of community security officers that have been deployed.

Dr Simon Howell, Research director - African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum

I would argue that it's not specifically the military that has done this great work, but actually the community itself rallying together, using the military deployment as a sort of starting premise and doing the job themselves.

Dr Simon Howell, Research director - African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum

Asked about the reported increase in arrests over the last few weeks, Howell says it's very difficult to link this directly with gangsterism.

There has been an increase in arrests as a function of the resulting deployment of both the military and the various police units.

Dr Simon Howell, Research director - African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum

As to whether these are sustainable I'm not sure. Whether these are specifically about gangs or whether they're actually just mopping-up operations in terms of general crime, it's again, quite hard to tell.

Dr Simon Howell, Research director - African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum

In that case, is three months enough time for the Western Cape government to refine its own ongoing plans for a successful long-term crime-fighting strategy in these hot spots?

If the deployment acts as a point on which people can then make an effort to deal with gangsterism in the long term, then I would say that there was some success in the military deployment.

Dr Simon Howell, Research director - African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum

In terms of the military deployment itself I wouldn't encourage it to remain on the ground occupying places because the military is ultimately the response to gangsterism and it's never going to deal with the actual issues at play as to why gangsterism continues to exist.

Dr Simon Howell, Research director - African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum

The long-term plans would have to be far more encompassing than just law enforcement - you've got to deal with the reasons why people find gangs attractive in the first place.

Dr Simon Howell, Research director - African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum

Listen to the conversation here:


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